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Biden’s Alter Ego to Succeed Him in Senate

Meet Sen.-elect Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Joseph Biden’s alter ego, who is set to be sworn in on Friday as the incoming vice president’s Senate successor.

Kaufman spent 19 years as chief of staff to Biden, the First State’s senior Senator who officially resigns his seat today after 36 years.

Kaufman’s family roots are in Pennsylvania, but he’s spent most of his life in Wilmington, just like Biden; his policy interests lie in foreign relations and the judiciary, just like Biden; and he considers himself a “Senate guy” who loves the institution, just like Biden.

But unlike Biden, Kaufman, 69, is an engineer by trade, and his approach to decision making is decidedly more deliberative. Kaufman’s personality, while warm, is seemingly less colorful than Biden’s, leaving Delaware’s incoming junior Senator less prone to extemporaneous, headline-demanding soliloquies.

And, while he’s on board with President-elect Barack Obama’s agenda and likely to be one of the new administration’s biggest Senate allies, Kaufman noted that he doesn’t work for the White House and is looking forward to the first time they butt heads. Oh, and he won’t be commuting to work every day by train from Wilmington, as Biden did for the entirety of his nearly four-decade Senate career. Kaufman is currently looking for a place to live in Washington, D.C.

“Obviously I worked hard for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and I really support what they do. And I’m sure that 90 percent of the stuff I will totally agree with,” Kaufman said Tuesday during an interview. “But I am, to be totally honest with you, looking forward to the first fight, where we don’t agree.”

Kaufman, about two months shy of his 70th birthday, left Biden’s Senate office in 1995 after 23 years, but since then has remained closely associated with the vice president-elect’s political campaigns, including his unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Kaufman also helped lead Biden’s vice presidential transition team.

Kaufman, married for nearly 50 years with three daughters and seven grandchildren, has spent the past dozen years or so teaching a course on Congress at Duke University — where he obtained a graduate degree in mechanical engineering — and working as a government relations consultant. Kaufman also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kaufman has never worked as a lobbyist, a fact he was quick to point out, although he said he eschews Obama’s disdain for lobbyists and the K Street community.

Kaufman will serve on the Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees — as Biden’s chief of staff from 1972 to 1995, Kaufman has extensive experience helping to run the panels — and said his Senate office will have an open-door policy to any individual who can provide the information he needs to do his job and adequately serve his constituents.

“This whole lobbyist jihad — I think it’s awful,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman does not plan to stand for election in November 2010, when a special election will be held to determine who will serve out the remainder of Biden’s seventh six-year term. Biden secured his Senate re- election in November even as he sought the vice presidency.

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